Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I never really felt ready before the big day arrived, and now that it's over, I just can't believe that Christmas has come and gone for 2015!  My little family has had an adventurous and productive two weeks. The kids, of course, are out of school and home for the Christmas break. Evan also took some extended time away from work and we've been able to spend an unusual amount of free-time together as an family. 

I didn't really know how this hyper-active bunch of mine would do with so much togetherness, but it's truly been a lot of fun. I think we surprised ourselves at how well we've worked together with not just hours or days, but weeks to spend at home as an ensemble. 


Cinnamon Rice Pudding

The other night I had the most intense and sudden craving for something I haven't had in few years: my mom's rice pudding. I'm not sure what triggered it, but once the thought was in my head there was nothing left to do except go make some. I was even completely willing to pack up the kids for an emergency trip to the store if it was necessary! Fortunately, I had these few ingredients on-hand in my kitchen, so we were able to skip the family joyride to the supermarket that evening.

My mom used to cook a little bit of this rice pudding for herself whenever we had leftover buttered rice from dinner. I remember questioning her about what she was making and thinking she had lost a couple of marbles. As a kid, white rice cooked in milk and sugar never sounded all that fantastic. Not at all. But, after several unsuccessful attempts to bait me, she finally talked me into taking a bite. Mom was right (trust me, she didn't hear that very often back then!) and I was immediately hooked by the creamy, richness of her old-fashioned, rice pudding.


New Look and One Happy Lady!

Good morning, everybody! Just a quick post to acknowledge that you are definitely looking at a new and improved blog design here at this address. I hired a wonderfully patient, honest and talented designer by the name of Lynsey Betz at Shiny Magic Design and I just love what's she done with the place!

One of the main improvements I wanted to add was a more visible share bar and a print function for the recipes posts. I got that as well as a whole new style and some gorgeous girly-girl colors which suits me perfectly. 

Easy Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup

Brrr! The chilly winter weather has finally reached us in South Texas. I know that the winter days we experience here can be pretty mild compared to other locations, but I look forward to it all year long. It's been really, really warm here until now. In fact, it's been so warm and humid, that the pesky mosquitoes were still flying and biting just last week! We couldn't wait for the temperature to drop, if for no other reason, just so those obnoxious, little tormentors would move on.

I think these few weeks of cold weather we have each year are so fun and it's a wonderful break from the agonizing heat we have here most of the year. We get to wear our beanies and coats and we get to fall in love again with rich, hearty soups and stews to help warm us back up.


Happy Thanksgiving!!

Praying and wishing for Thanksgiving Day happiness and a harvest of blessings for all of my family, friends, bakery customers and my readers!  

I am so indescribably thankful for all of you!

xoxo Marcelle

More Thanksgiving Cookie Sets of 2015

The holidays are here! Well, just about here, anyway. I've been blessed to have some little pops of Thanksgiving cookie business early-on this year. These sets are two of my favorites, so far. I have more orders to fill next week, so my sincere hope is that you enjoy looking at them because the onslaught of holiday cookies pics is coming, y'all. 

Patchwork Pumpkin Cookies!

I love looking at pictures of the cute, plaid, patchy, rustic-style fall cookies that always pop-up on Pinterest at this time of the year!  So, this fall I decided to make my own! These Patchwork Pumpkin cookies are an original cookie art design I made and I'm offering through my bakery business for the remainder of the autumn season! 

The Chocolate Final

My lovely friend, Stacie, is enrolled in a local culinary arts program and lately she's been working really hard at making all kinds of amazing goodies in her chocolate and confections course.  Well, I was lucky enough to be invited to the final exam for her chocolate class last week!

The invitation was extended by my friend, Jennifer, who had pre-purchased tickets for the event. Also attending her final exam were Stacie's husband, Alfredo and her mother, Alma. The tasting was held in the school's dining room and waiting for us there were three, large tables full of gorgeous, handmade chocolates!  

Lightened Up Broccoli Salad

Broccoli salad is by far one of the best fresh, veggie salads on the planet. I don't where the recipe originated, but who ever thought it up is one amazing individual in my book. It's one of those classic, simple, and versatile recipes that can be easily tweaked with added ingredients to suit personal tastes. And, it works with all kinds of menus for all kinds of events ranging from simple picnics to big, holiday meals. 

I make this broccoli salad pretty often because Evan and I really like pairing it with barbecue and many of our favorite simple, weeknight meat dishes, like baked chicken. It's also really satisfying on it's own as salad and I've been known to pack a small bowl to eat for lunch at work. I'm planning to serve it with our upcoming Christmas meal too. It think it will be well-matched with a scrumptious, baked ham and savory, cornbread stuffing. It'll be a nice change from our usual chilled, macaroni salad that's been a staple at my family's Christmas meal for years.

Chewy Molasses Cookies

This past Tuesday night, October 6, 2015, was National Night Out Against Crime in Central Texas.  A handful of our sweet, long-time neighbors always organize some form of a block party for the event. For the last several years, our small celebration has been hosted by a generous neighbor who happens to have a huge yard on a corner lot that easily accommodates a crowd. 

It's typically a potluck-style party, and this year was no different.  Some people brought a variety of meats, including smoky, barbecue chicken, ribs and brisket. Other folks contributed a few types of grilled sausages. And for side dishes, there were some spicy, homemade, borracho-style pinto beans, Mexican rice, green beans and bread.  


How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Those adorable, little pie pumpkins that are in the produce section of your grocery store at the moment are for much more than crafting or painting spooky faces on. They are fantastic to cook with and more importantly, they can be used to make this gorgeous, all-natural pumpkin puree! 

Now, humor me here, and take another look at that picture. Honestly, is that an amazing color or what?! Fresh, pure pumpkin puree is easier to make than you may think and it can be used in any recipe that calls for canned puree.  


Spiced Pumpkin Empanadas

I know I'm not alone in my excitement over fall's imminent arrival. It's my absolute favorite season of the year! Here in South Texas, the scorching, end-of-summer heat will linger a bit longer, and I always look so forward to the cool, autumn weather.  After suffering through the recent, sweltering weeks, the crisp, breezy fall days will be like heaven-on-Earth for me. 

The upcoming, chilly days will open the door for my family to enjoy some of our favorite things. To start with, my favorite things to wear are jeans and boots. In fact, I've already dusted off my favorite pair of Roper's and they're ready for action! And, hopefully it won't be too much longer before we get to bundle up in sweaters and watch the kids play in huge piles of fallen leaves outside. We also can't wait for bonfires, homemade hot cocoa, s'mores!


Breadless Zesty Italian Roll-Ups

For as long as I can remember, sandwiches have been one of my favorite things in the world. Just to give you all a glimpse into my sandwich-loving back story, here's a little tale for you:  When my siblings and I were much younger, the wall behind my dad's desk in his office was always covered in art, crafts and drawings made by each of us. Most of the crafts or pictures were created at school around the holidays, you know, the sort of nice ones that were worth saving. 

There were mystic, crayon-colored sketches of bright, green Christmas trees, construction paper cut-outs of trees, and Easter baskets filled with colorful eggs, large stick-drawings of cats and dogs, pasted randomly all over the wall. And then, somewhere near the center of the collection, there was one crayon sketch on a regular sheet of printer paper that was very clearly titled: "Hot, Ham and Cheese".  Yep, that one outstanding, original, colorful crayon sketch of a ham sandwich came from none other than moi. 


Creamy, Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

I think all of us have dishes and recipes that we reserve just for the holidays or certain seasons.  Scalloped potatoes is one such dish for me. My siblings and I typically only saw potatoes like this once, maybe twice, a year at Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas too.  And, boy, did we look forward to them all year long!  

I don't make this dish very often either, but when I do anxious people start buzzing around the kitchen like nosy flies and asking questions like "Is it ready yet?!" way too often. Well, they get shooed out of the kitchen and reminded that potato perfection takes time. This dish needs about an hour in the oven before it's ready.


It's a Lego Party, People!

Yes, I did fall off the face of the planet for a couple of weeks. We are packing up this house to move on to greener pastures, more square footage and a bigger kitchen. In my opinion, packing up a house that's been occupied for thirteen years and falling off the planet are pretty much the same thing. We are a family with lots and lots of stuff! All the details of this impending move are reserved for another post, but while boxes were being filled another custom cake and cookie request came in!

This Lego theme cake and cookies were made for a little boy named Ethan who is turning 7.  I loved putting this cake together.  Ethan, you had me at "primary colors"!  I was so very thankful to be part of his big day!  Please enjoy the pics!


Super Sam Cake

Ya know, it's been a while since I've taken an order for a large, custom cake. Recently, most of the orders I've taken have been for simple, traditional-style sheet cakes or small, fancy, gourmet-style cakes.  

I love baking any and every cake, but custom cakes are where the real fun is at for me. With a custom cake, I love the design element and having a chance to create a sort of personal tribute in form of a cake. 

So, I was thrilled to the gills to get a last-minute custom cake order for a little boy named Sam who was turning four. He also happens to idolize Superman. Who doesn't idolize Superman, but Saturday was Sam's day!  

So this is just a quick, picture post of a cake I designed for "Super Sam". I sure had lots of fun putting this cake together for him.  I hope he had a great time at his party!


Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I will start this post by saying that these cookies are just ridiculous. Ridiculously good, that is!  They are also gluten and dairy free.

I have a couple of friends with severe gluten sensitivity and they've asked me to post some recipes that could help to satisfy their depressed sweet teeth without breaking the bank account. I feel for them because many of the flour substitute products out there are extremely effective, but pretty darn pricey. I know I've personally done a double take and subsequently winced at the price tag below the tiny bag of almond flour at my grocery store.


Perfect, Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

A really, really long time ago, making perfect pancakes completely from scratch was one the first real cooking goals I ever set for myself. To be more exact, I had set a general learning goal to make as many things as possible from scratch, and I thought I was starting small with pancakes. Well, after several unsuccessful batches of homemade pancake batter, I can tell you that as a novice cook all those years ago I completely underestimated the "simple" pancake.

Word for word, I followed the directions in pancake recipes that I found in old recipe card sets and cookbooks I had, and without fail the pancakes were disappointing. It was a different sort of failure for each and every batch, but basically they turned out flat, tough or just completely flavorless. 


Parmesan-Crusted Zucchini

If you follow me on any social media sites, you know that I'm one of of those people that loves to post photos of food on my pages. Yes, in fact my love of posting "foodporn" started years ago, and was pretty much a segue for me into writing about food online. I post photos of all kinds of food, both savory and sweet, on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. The photos are mostly of fun dinner dishes I've made or completed baking projects that I'm proud of.  

This recipe post is the result of a random food picture I recently posted on my personal Facebook page. I made these Sriracha-glazed chicken wings that had turned out as delicious as they were pretty. In my opinion, those spicy wings were a successful food experiment and were definitely a dinner dish worthy of a picture post!  I made this Parmesan-crusted squash dish to go along with them.


Icebox Lemon Cheesecake with Homemade Blueberry Syrup

Rich, creamy, chilled pies are some of my favorite desserts to make. I'm a sucker for cream cheese fillings in any form, but the fact that icebox-style cheesecakes are delicious and super convenient to make definitely keeps them near and dear to my heart. Most icebox pie recipes require just a handful of ingredients and a few quick steps. Now, who doesn't love those qualities in a recipe on any day of the week?

I've got a few good, no-bake, pumpkin pie recipes in my collection that I like to make during the fall months and a white chocolate-peppermint icebox pie that I keep special for December. But, this easy cheesecake recipe is the one icebox-style pie I make all year long. Seriously, the basic recipe stays the same, but I just tinker around with the flavorings and garnishes to suit whatever my fancy is that day. Today it had to be a lemon cheesecake with berries, especially blueberries! I love blueberries and it just so happened that my go-to grocery store had them on sale, so I had alot of them. 


Our July Day by the Comal River

My son is visiting some out-of-town family members for the week and we always get a bit down when our big bundle of energy is away. So, yesterday we decided to head out to the quaint, little city of New Braunfels,Texas just to get out of the house for the day.  

My husband suggested spending the day at Landa Park by the Comal river. This park is popular with the New Braunfels locals as well as many folks from the surrounding towns.  We're in North East San Antonio, and not terribly far down the interstate highway from this park, but I had never made the trip over there.  

Cinnamon and Sugar Monkey Bread From Scratch!

If you're familiar with the ooey, gooey, super sweet breakfast bread known as monkey bread, then you know as well as I do how easy it is to get hooked after just one bite. However, if you haven't had it, please don't let the cutesy, animal name fool you, this dangerously delicious pull-apart bread isn't just for kids. Okay, well, it shouldn't be just for kids and in this house it definitely is not! Monkey bread is one of my favorite sweet breads. 

In our family, it's one hundred percent accurate to say that I'm usually the first one to suggest pastries or bread for breakfast on any day of the week. Otherwise, my little clan would be happy to eat scrambled eggs every, single morning.  Believe me, I do mean every morning. They really love their eggs! I like a good, savory egg breakfast too, but sometimes something sweet just helps me get going in the morning. 


Patriotic Red, White, and Blue Cookies 2015

This is just a quick picture post of a couple my favorite cookie styles I'm offering for this Fourth of July holiday.

Buttermilk Pound Cake with Triple-Citrus Glaze

I don't make it a big secret that a store-bought pound cake is one of my all-time, favorite dessert making short-cuts.  I like to buy the little pound cakes made in my grocery store bakery. Those ready-made cakes come in really handy when we have a visit from unexpected company or as a quick fix for my family's busy weeknight sugar cravings. But, when I have time to plan, I definitely prefer to bake a rich, old-fashioned pound cake from scratch with lots of butter and creamy buttermilk!    

The base recipe for my favorite buttermilk pound cake came from old Southern Living cookbook. The original recipe called for a measure of shortening as well as lemon and almond extracts. Now, it's just a personal preference thing for me really, but unless I'm making a pie crust, I don't like to use shortening. I don't care much for the taste of almond extract either, so I adapted this recipe to suit my taste. When I make this cake, I use all butter in place of shortening and vanilla extract in place of the suggested almond and lemon flavors.  


Easy Balsamic Green Bean Bake

I buy a big bag full of bulk, fresh, green beans every time I go to the store.  I put them in as many side dishes as I can and I especially like to use them in soups and stews.  I mean, what's not to love? They're tasty, healthy, pretty, inexpensive and most importantly, my kids eat them!  

In fact, green beans were the only fresh vegetable my son would eat for the longest time. He preferred that every other vegetable come out of a can. However, at the tender age of five he branched out and began to try other fresh, garden goodies. But, to this day, if you ask him directly what vegetable he wants with dinner, I would place a firm bet on his answer.  Yep, you guessed it: green beans! 


New Bakery Item: Sweet and Spicy Pineapple-Habanero Jelly!

Summer is here and I'm officially in love with sweet and spicy jellies.  For years now I've been making my own recipe for jalapeño jelly and it continues to be a best selling product!  I also make traditional fruit jams and preserves which always keep me busy during the winter holidays.  

Since last Christmas, I've tinkered with the idea of making my own spicy fruit jellies and it was a thought that kept getting put to simmer on the back burner. Well, I've finally had time to experiment and here is the firstborn of what will be a small line of sweet and spicy fruit jellies: Pineapple-Habanero Jelly! Isn't she pretty?  Each batch is made by me with a bright and flavorful mix of fresh-cut pineapple, orange habanero peppers, mild green bell pepper, just a pinch of sweet onion, sugar and tangy cider vinegar.  


Sweet, Girly Under the Sea Cookies!

This is just a quick picture post of some adorable, girly, under-the-sea theme cookies I made.  

Overall, I was very happy with how the decoration on these turned out! Believe me, there was some pretty intense concentration going on in my little kitchen last night as I piped each and every fish, starfish and whale completely freehand!

Spicy Pepper Jack Cheese Truffles

Well, summer is officially on here in Texas. I always look forward to having my kids at home and getting out to have some fun and adventure on our own schedule.  And believe me, the use of the words "fun and adventure" in the previous sentence are meant to the letter!  Even when it's not required, we are a family of folks that like to stay busy.  Seriously, we're a pretty naturally energetic bunch, so we may actually need to stay busy to survive.

Sea Shell Cookies!

This is just a quick picture post of an order of pretty sea shell cookies I made yesterday.  

I bought the cutters last summer, but this was the first opportunity I've had to use them.  My little family and I have big love for the beach so this was a project I really took to heart.  I chose soft, natural colors and I totally love how they turned out!  I like them all, but I especially like those sand dollar cookies!
Please enjoy the pics!   
xoxo  Marcelle 


Green Chili Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I'll just begin this post with an all encompassing statement about myself: I love enchiladas!  Seriously, every single time we go out for Mexican food I order a form or flavor of enchilada.  But, I can tell you that I honestly I walk into any restaurant we choose with an open mind. Really, I try to convince myself to branch out and order a puffy taco or a flauta or a hot, delicious bowl of caldo.  It just doesn't happen. My little Texas soul really doesn't want anything else.  It must be chili-cheesy, amazing enchiladas!

I put this easy casserole together on a hectic day with ingredients I was lucky enough to have on-hand in my pantry. I was desperately craving some green chili enchiladas, but I was busy looking after sick people and even a quick restaurant visit was out of the question. The husband was down with strep-throat, my son had cold and they were quarantined to bedrooms. I was trying to keep myself and the bubbly, nine-month old girl germ-free. Yeah, Mommy wasn't going anywhere.

A layered-casserole was a perfect solution to get all the necessary enchilada ingredients into the dish without actually rolling out enchiladas.  On that particular day, I was too tired to stuff and roll anything no matter how scrumptious it may have been!


Marinated Cherry Tomato Salad with Cucumber & Mozzarella

I have an odd relationship with cherry tomatoes.  They're really cute and pretty, but I don't really like them plain.  Honestly, if I come across them in a typical garden salad, I will usually just push them aside. 

But, I think they're perfect for making petite appetizers and I absolutely love marinated cherry tomatoes! During the summer months I like to marinate them and use them in a few ways, and one of my favorite easy side dishes is this cherry tomato salad. A marinated cherry tomato salad may not sound all that exciting to some, but if you try this I bet you get hooked.  It's almost outrageous how much flavor those tiny tomatoes take on in just a couple of hours!


Red, White and Blue Lemon-Berry Trifles

I know for many families the long Memorial Day weekend is a time for busy reunions and family parties. When it comes to big parties, I'm a firm believer in make-ahead desserts (or make-ahead anything for that matter!). Afterall, you want to be out spending time with your family and friends, not slaving away in a kitchen somewhere!

This dessert is dainty, easy to make, absolutely delicious, and easily transportable.  It is pretty much the perfect summer get-together dessert.  Or, if you're like me, it's a perfect breakfast!  

How To Make Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is a good and easy recipe to have in your repertoire.  It sounds fancy, but it's ridiculously easy to prepare and it makes certain tasks in the kitchen, especially when it comes to drink mixing, so much easier!  In restaurants, bars and bakeries it's something that gets used every day in several ways. 

Restaurants use simple syrup to candy fruit rinds, or to poach fruit for dessert dishes.  Bartenders in upscale bars make many specialty-flavored simple syrups every day to add to your favorite cocktails. A little known fact is that bakers use simple syrup to "fix" dry cakes or they may use syrup on each and every cake to add extra moisture and a hint of flavor. In my bakery business, I use simple syrup to help my white and yellow cakes stay moist.  


Sweet You Are My Sunshine Cake!

Here's a quick picture post of a sweet, little cake I worked on recently. Children's cakes are secretly my favorite!  This adorable "you are my sunshine" theme sure adds some bright, spring colors to these gray days we're having lately.  Happy birthday, Zoe!

Hope you enjoy the pics!

xoxo  Marcelle


Easy 4-Ingredient Salisbury Steak

I grew up eating lots of ground meat.  We were a big family and there were lots of mouths to feed.  Recipes using ground meat were a good, economical dinner solution for my mom on most week nights.  My mom is a wonderful cook and baker, but we were not strangers to quick dinners back in the day.  We ate lots of hamburgers, noodle casseroles, goulash, meatloaf, and what she called "hamburger steaks". 

Now I know that what we were actually eating was a mild-mannered version of Salisbury steak, and it's still one of my favorite comfort food dishes of all time. So is meatloaf, but that's a story for another post!  


Extended Vacation Is Now Over!

No, of course, I have not forgotten this blog!  I've just been out of town and I've stayed busy trying to catch up after we got home!  Immediately after returning from our trip, I had a little rush on cookie orders and a little spike of business is always welcome after a trip full of restaurant dining!   Now, thankfully I've gotten things back up to speed!  Well, mostly anyhow.

We're making it a family tradition to hit the Texas Coast for a long weekend each year May.  We go to celebrate our wedding anniversary and Mother's Day.  It's a nice break in the monotony of a busy work schedule for us, a long school year for our son and it's just plain fun for the 2-year-old and the dog.

While we were there we ate out at restaurants way more than usual, and being completely caught up in relaxation, I just ate the food.  Nope, I didn't photograph any of it until the last day we were there!  I am constantly snapping photos of food, so you've got to know I was really lost in the moment!


Breastfeeding-Inspired Cookies for Latch on San Antonio!

A old friend of mine is breastfeeding mother and a breastfeeding advocate here in San Antonio.  She works closely with a group called Latch On San Antonio.  I was so excited when she contacted me about making some cookies for them to include as a raffle prize at an upcoming event called the Mama Baby Expo.  In the dozen she ordered, she wanted the group's logo and...wait for it... boobies!  Yes, boobies!  I've had some unusual requests definitely, but boobies were a first for me!


Two-Minute Nutella Mug Cake

Okay, so I'm a little late to the party when it comes to blogging about mug cakes.  But, I seriously just tried my hand at one for the first time this past weekend.  It was such a fun dessert to make and my kids just found this whole cake-in-a-mug concept very exciting!

The cake in the cover photo is the second one I made and maybe you can see that the edges have been picked at?  The two-year-old was in an absolute, shark-like frenzy while this cake was cooling off on a rack.  Apparently, she managed to pick small pieces from the sides when I would turn away. She's a little chocolate-crazed ninja, I tell ya!    


Rustic Veggie Pizza Pie

I know I'm not alone in my love big of pizza.  In fact, if I could get away with it, take-out pizza would be on the menu at my house at least once a week.   But, for us, it's important to keep our budget in mind and we generally choose to cook at home most nights.  I guess it's also necessary to mention that, unless you're especially active, eating take-out pizza on a regular basis can be pretty tough on any waistlines you're trying to keep under control...I know that's true for me.

All the grown-up considerations aside, in my opinion, not much can compare to a slice of hot, fresh supreme-style pizza.  Your favorite restaurant may call it something different, but, you know, the one piled high with veggies, meat, sauce and cheese?  It's just the best!  


Easter Cookies 2015!

Well, if you've been looking for them, I'm sure you realize by now that this week is a wash when it comes to my regular recipe posts.  My cookie business has been booming recently and I am incredibly thankful and excited about that! In the last week, I worked on a few orders of birthday and baby shower cookies, but mostly the demand was for Easter theme cookies.  

For the first time this year, I offered to sell individual cookies as basket stuffers and that was a huge success!  I kept the kids in mind with these fun cookies and they are simple and sweet: polka dot bunnies, carrots, pretty tulips, duckies with bowties, and bright Easter eggs!

Hoppy Easter everyone! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the pics! 

Recipe posts will be back next week!


Sweet Baby Rain Drop Cookies

This just a quick picture post to share today's fun cookies! 

These cookies were dreamed up to go with a whimsical tear drop theme for baby shower.  I just love how girly and sweet they are! Designing and decorating these cookies has been one of my most favorite projects so far! 

Hope you enjoy the pics!
my favorite of favorites in this bunch!

Springtime Asparagus Soup

Well, Spring is here and thankfully the South Texas month (Yes, I do mean 'month'... just one) of harsh winter weather is all done and the warm sun is out shining again. At this point of each and every year, my husband and I fall into a running debate over dinner.  You see, I really do tend to make more pots of soup during the warm months than through the winter.  He sees soup as a winter dish and he complains that the Spring and Summer seasons here in the south are just too hot to eat soup. 

However, I see soup from a completely different angle. If you really think about it, no matter the season, anything other than a peanut butter & jelly sandwich will be served hot on a plate.  So, when the warmer weather is in full swing, I want light, hot food.  Soup, in my opinion, generally makes a more delicate, weightless main dish.  


Irish Coffee Cake

Honestly, I was fighting off a two-year-old  monkey, I mean girl, when I piped these borders.!  She wanted on the table!
Well, it seems this year is just going to fly by and I honestly can't believe St. Patrick's Day is already here!  Keeping with tradition, I'm sure most schools and businesses were filled with people threatening flirty pinches for those not wearing any shade of green today. I'm also sure that college kids everywhere are planning a big night out.  I know I sure used to look forward to St. Patty's day parties back in the day!  But, the days of long nights out toasting and shouting "sláinte!" with the cool kids on March 17 are over and done.  For this boring grown-up today is just a regular Tuesday.  It's also school night, so helping my eight-year-old with math homework is what's on the social schedule for me tonight! 


Parmesan Polenta Cakes with Spicy Eggplant Ragout

I watch a lot of Food Network and Cooking Channel programming and over the years I've heard the term "polenta" kicked around pretty often on certain shows.  It's always looked good and sounded tempting, but until really recently I had never tried it.  I mean really, really recently... like, yesterday!  Well, now that I have Polenta 101 under my belt, I can tell you that all the fuss about it on cable is well-deserved.  It is crazy easy to make, it's absolutely delicious and even potentially addicting. 


Mexican-Style Stuffed Peppers with Soy Chorizo & Queso Fresco

Just a little over three weeks ago, I began brainstorming and planned out my Meatless Monday posts for the next eight weeks! Yes, lately I've been one productive little person and I'm loving how organized that opening sentence makes me sound!  I've been really excited and motivated for months to get this string of posts started and to try some new things!

Diving into the world of vegetarian cooking has already taught me quite a lot about products I never knew existed and more about myself as a cook. Even though I've done a little legwork and research, I know that I've barely scratched the surface of this diet and lifestyle and I'll admit that I'm officially fascinated with vegetarian food! But, don't worry, I'll only share one or two, quick, self-observations or epiphanies in each post.  I mean, if I get too deep here, I could quickly sink into my Libra-driven overanalysis of everything and who needs that on a Monday?


Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips & Pecans

Just so everyone knows, I've been a really good girl over the last few weeks.  I've been watching my calorie intake and exercising bunches.  On days when the weather's been pleasant, I've been getting out for long walks and jogs.  I even busted out the Zumba dvd set that's been collecting dust on my bookshelf since last June and did a little salsa dancing!

My son is an avid swimmer who dreams of being on a swim team and my two-year old has shown the indisputable signs of being a water-loving, little fishy too.  This means that whether I like it or not, swimsuit season is looming for me.  I have to be ready to look decent while panicking and chasing a wild toddler around the pool in just a couple of months!

Gnocchi With Sausage, Butternut Squash & Spinach

Okay friends, you'll soon notice that I have a very intense love of squash!  I often cook with a few varieties, namely zucchini, yellow summer, butternut and spaghetti squashes.  And maybe it's because of a long-standing mental association, but because of their summer/winter classifications I do tend to use them in noticeably different ways.  

Zucchini and yellow squash are summer varieties and I typically treat them as such.  I usually pair them up with light, delicate ingredients and sauces. Spaghetti squash is classified as a winter squash, but for my taste it's a very mild, mellow ingredient and I love to make light summer meals with it. A favorite simple dinner of mine is skillet casserole with roasted, shredded spaghetti squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and lots of cheese, but that is for another post! 


The Last Valentine's Day Dozen of 2015

Yesterday, the last of my Valentine's day cookie orders left the building!  These pictures are of the last dozen to go and in some ways I think the some of best cookies were saved for last.  You could say I went all out with my girly side and just had some fun!  I used lots of pink, frills, roses, and hearts.  By the way, creating tiny pennants on cookies is one of my new favorite things, so everyone should expect to see many more bitsy banners in the future! 


Jared's 8th Birthday Party!

This is a primarily a photo post with pictures of my son's birthday party last weekend. 

He turned 8!   I had already "pinned" inspiration for soccer, Minecraft, and penguin theme cakes in anticipation of his choice.  Those are three things I know he loves.  But, he definitely has a mind of his own and is full of surprises and without any prompting from me, he chose a "Ghostbusters" theme for his party and cake. I was super surprised by his choice considering we have only seen the movie as a rerun on some channel last summer once!  But, in fairness the ghost character "Slimer" and the evil Stay Puft Marshmallow Man do leave lasting impressions!  

We held the party at a local restaurant called Momak's Backyard Burgers & Malts.  This place has great kid-friendly food, lots of outdoor activities for kids and tons of seating for the grown-ups.  It was by far the most relaxed birthday party we have ever hosted and a good time was had by all.  Parents were sitting and chatting and kids were running and playing!  The weather was gorgeous and my baby was celebrated while surrounded by his family and his closest friends. Other than missing a few faces that we love, it was a great and perfect day!


Fudgy Nutella Brownies

Fudgy Nutella Brownies. Cooled for 25 minutes and still a bit warm.

I live in a house with an entire family of self-professed Nutella addicts. And, yes, this description includes me.  We love to eat it on bread, toast, crackers, apples, waffles and the list just goes on and on!  Our addiction is a pretty big deal and we don't ever leave the grocery store without a new jar. 

For the first time last year I began incorporating this heavenly product into my baking.  Last summer, I made a few cakes using Nutella as a swirl filling.  Well, in 2015 my use of this chocolate-spread of-the-gods has evolved and in this recipe I used it as a base! (I'm pretty sure I saw fireworks go off in the distance as I typed that last sentence!)


Fun Retirement Cookies!

These pics were snapped with my phone, so yes, not as clear as with my Sony!
I found out a couple of weeks ago that the principal at my son's elementary school would be retiring.  She sent a brief letter out to the school community announcing her retirement and that she hoped, after over 10 years of service as an administrator, she could travel and spend more time with her grandchildren.

She is a sweet lady and I always saw her up and around the school when I was on the campus.  She was a very visible principal and didn't seem the type to just stay plopped behind her desk.  I can only imagine that she will stay as busy in her retirement years. My son and I have had a great rapport with her these last two and half years, and she will be missed!
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